Gold Pawn (An Art Deco Mystery)

Written by L.A. Chandlar
Review by Ellen Keith

Second in Chandlar’s 1930s Art Deco mystery series, The Gold Pawn brings back heroine Lane Sanders, aide to Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Lane, an orphan after her parents were murdered, lives in New York City with her Aunt Evelyn and Evelyn’s butler, Mr. Kirkland. Lane’s parents had raised her in Rochester, Michigan, and Lane alternates between her job in the mayor’s office and trips to Rochester to finally face her parents’ home. Her boyfriend Finn Brodie, an NYPD detective, is on a secret mission in his native London, so Lane is susceptible to the charms of Tucker, a New York businessman, who keeps appearing in Rochester.

Lane’s parents were involved in taking down the Red Scroll Network, and her memories are both hazy and painful and feature a silver gun and a gold pawn. Remnants of the network surface and threaten Lane’s life as well.

La Guardia is a delightful character in the book; his outsized personality compensates for his height. Other real-life characters are more clumsily shoehorned in. Aunt Evelyn opens her home for Thanksgiving and entertains “a man named Albert and his wife, Elsa Einstein” as well a man named Bob, “the life of the party.” Chandler has an eye for detail so New York City in the 1930s—the clothes, the nightclubs, the food—are all quite vivid and tangible. The plot, however, is out of a 1930s movie serial, with caricatures of villains and breakneck plotting. When one character got on the Hindenburg, I expected the worst. I had not read the first in the series, The Silver Gun, and as Chandlar spills all the plot points from that book in this one, I don’t need to, but given the opportunity, I would read the next in the series. While everything was exaggerated in this book, it was fun and a good read and it transported me back to the 1930s. Sometimes that’s enough.